This week’s post recognizes talented editors of the world. Editors toil away behind the scenes, yet don’t often get enough recognition for their unbiased, steady writing feedback. In fact, many people don’t know how hard the job is or even all that it entails. Every so often a reader comes across a book that doesn’t feel quite finished or a whitepaper plagued with typos. In general, this means that it’s been rushed into production without a sufficient editorial eye. On the flipside, properly edited books are a joy to read, leaving a person hungry for more chapters. Let’s take a closer look at what an experienced editor offers to a longer form manuscript, such as a research whitepaper or a novel manuscript.
The Editing Process
The first thing a wise writer will do with a draft manuscript is shelve it for a few days and then come back to it with fresh eyes. This applies to both nonfiction and fiction manuscripts. It’s amazing what will stand out a few days after the initial piece is drafted. A number of drafts should be completed before it goes to beta (early draft) readers. After beta reader comments are received, and the manuscript edited by the author as necessary, then the professional editor enters the process. Editors will catch things writers cannot; writers are simply too close to their own work. It’s important not to rush a first draft to a professional editor. The writer needs to produce as polished a working draft as possible, including beta reader comments, before asking for an editor’s input. Asking an editor to work on a writer's very first draft is akin to asking them to eat undercooked pasta: not ready plus too hard.
When the manuscript is ready for the editor, they first perform a general overview of the manuscript, pointing out any major plot holes, missing research or ineffective dialogue. This feedback is typed up into a one to two page overview and then sent over to the writer for use in the rewriting process. The next stage in the editing process is a more detailed line edit. This means that the editor will go through the manuscript line by line, looking for phrases to reword, sentences out of order, typos and more specific content nuances that need addressing for consistency’s sake. Again, the manuscript goes back to the writer for work. Finally, the writer submits the manuscript to the editor for one final proofread, aimed at catching tiny misspellings and punctuation errors. Sometimes a separate proofreader is engaged for this work, and other times the editor will perform this function to ensure consistency. It all depends upon the team in place. Sure, it’s a lot of work moving from draft to draft, but the end result is a much more elegant and finished piece.
Editors want writers to succeed. See editors as allies instead of mere punctuation police.
Editors are Valuable Team Members
A great editor is up to speed with industry trends. They know what work is selling in the fiction publishing world, their fingers firmly placed on the pulse of current marketplace wants. Nonfiction editors know what magazines and journals in their field are seeking content. Numerous writers don’t take the time to ask their editors for input on their latest work. For writers fortunate to work with a talented editor, the advice is always, "make the most of the experience!" It seems logical to want to know what an industry expert thinks about how a book or paper will be received by the marketplace. Editors want writers to succeed. See editors as allies instead of mere punctuation police.
Finding an Editor
If an organization doesn’t have a go-to. in-house editor, then there are multiple freelance services available. Online freelancing sites abound, however, finding a really good editor is not easy. Don’t trust your writing to just anyone calling themselves an editor— it’s incredibly easy to hang out an editorial open-for-business sign— start by looking at their track record. Vet candidates by learning how many years of experience they offer. Ask about their qualifications, degree(s) and credentials. Ask if they are a member of an editing association. Next, inquire if the editor has a specialty field. It doesn’t make much sense to hire an editor who exclusively specializes in the medical field to edit a whitepaper on advanced power station efficiency. There’s more leeway with fiction writing, but if an editor has a lengthy track record with, and preference for, romance novels, then perhaps someone else is better suited to a writer’s gothic horror novel project. Ask if the editor will work on a couple of trial pages to assess if their services are a good fit with the writer. Finally, if the price seems too good to be true, then it usually is. Expect to pay an editor for their services; good editors have spent years training and working on their craft, and they cannot work for free. A simple internet search will provide general industry rates for the various editing tasks.
Professional, polished and published writing is not a solitary DIY job. It takes a team of people, including the writer and the editor, to put together a finished magazine article, whitepaper or novel. This blog post offers a shout out to the talented editors who work hard every day to help improve writing. I applaud them for their fearless entries into the fray, tackling misguided commas, awkward sentences and redundant phrases. Editors’ industry insight, accurate revision work and prose polishing skills make writing shine.